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Safeguarding marine life

A MARINE wildlife rescue centre could be set up in Bahrain, to deal with the aftermath of oil spills or other calamities anywhere in the region.

It would also be used to train rescue teams and would act as an information and education centre for schools and visitors.

The idea for the centre is being explored by Holland-based AniMedics operations head Ben van Hoogen, who also works at the Seal Rescue Rehabilitation Centre (SRRC) in Holland.

"We are trying to set up a marine rescue team, where we will train local Bahrain people how to respond to oil spills and other crisis," Mr Van Hoogen told the GDN.

"We are hoping there will be a chance to build a rescue and rehabilitation centre.

"We have spoken to Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre (Memac) and they are looking for a partner to take care of oil spills, they need a rescue centre in Bahrain that will serve the whole region.

"The Bahrain Marine Life Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre will look after dugongs, turtles and other types of sea life and it will also be an information and education centre like Al Areen.

"I should be able to have the drawings and papers ready by the end of the year and we hope this can be set up in the next year or two."

He said the AniMedics team of volunteers had embarked on an underwater mission to clean up Bahrain's polluted reefs, in collaboration with the Coral Beach Club.

Mr Van Hoogen said a team of divers would begin this week by identifying the most polluted reefs and then from next month they would start a regular cleaning mission.

"We know the reefs are damaged because of reclamation but they are also affected by tourism, speed boats, fishing lines and trawling nets," he said.

"All the trash we collect we will pile up until we create an enormous statue, this is what was done in Holland, it stood at 20 metres high and was 25 square metres."

In addition to cleaning the reefs Mr Van Hoogen plans to start charting sea life populations to form a database.

He said data about sea life existed in Bahrain but it was either old or incomplete or wasn't followed up.

Having data was vital, he said, because without knowing exactly what was in the sea there was no way of providing protection.

"If your networking system is good you can compile a good database where you will know the population of dugongs, reef sharks and so on," he said.

"If any disease strikes you will know immediately.

"Once it is up and running you need to go out three times a week for monitoring.

"It's also about sea and costal patrol so you can monitor what is washed ashore." becky@gdn.com.bh



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